Smith & Cult Founder Dineh Mohajer Talks Her New Line, Hard Candy Roots

by | Jun 4, 2015 | Beauty, Fashion

Photo: Courtesy of Smith & Cult

Photo: Courtesy of Smith & Cult

Smith & Cult is a newly launched beauty brand by veteran Dineh Mohajer, founder of the already successful Hard Candy cosmetics. Hard Candy became popular in 1995 when Alicia Silverstone (Clueless) wore one of their nail polish shades on The Late Show with David Letterman.

Now 20 years later, Hard Candy is celebrating their 20th anniversary and Dineh has debuted Smith & Cult, and more specifically, their line of nail lacquers. We recently got to chat with Dineh about her new brand, and expanding onto her successful ventures following Hard Candy.

Photo: Courtesy of

Photo: Courtesy of

How did you get started with the Smith & Cult line? Why did you decide to transition to something new after an already successful brand in Hard Candy?

Smith & Cult Founder Dineh Mohajer: Smith & Cult was inspired by my by addiction to beauty, which began with Hard Candy so many years ago. While my beauty fixation has remained a constant throughout my life, it has also evolved along the way. As humans, our experiences throughout our lives are diverse, complex and layered. I think that if we can embrace all of our experiences, from the good to the bad and the pretty to the ugly, we will find the beauty in all of them. The name Smith & Cult represents this duality, as does every aspect of the brand; packaging, shades, names, diary entries, images, videos, identity, website, nail designs, etc. Creating Smith & Cult was just another chapter in my diary as a beauty junkie. I guess it’s a sort of grown up, evolved version of Hard Candy.

How did your experience with Hard Candy help influence the start-up of Smith & Cult?

From inception to the sale of the brand, Hard Candy was beauty bootcamp. Because I was so young and green, at certain times it was extremely overwhelming. In a sense, the brand and I were both forced to grow up together. My background was Biochemistry and had no understanding of business. I was even terrible at balancing my personal checkbook. I think both the disastrous mistakes I made and the magical moments of success at Hard Candy are what gave me the tools I needed to create Smith & Cult. Hard Candy was literally hard lessons 101. I’m grateful for the learning experience and am channeling my “hindsight 20/20” frustration into a positive place with the development of Smith & Cult. I am happy every day because that includes NOT managing inventory control.

What was your inspiration for the line of nail lacquer?

Nail lacquer is a natural platform for me to express myself and create a beauty product that pays homage to my most beloved obsessions: art, fashion, music, and all things I find inspiring. It was instinctual to launch Smith & Cult with nail lacquer, since it’s how I ended up in beauty to begin with. The brand is based on The Diary of a Beauty Junkie, a time capsule of sorts comprised of personal stories, including both tragic and treasured beauty moments. Each glimpse into my past reveals that my memories are not filed by chronological order, but rather by beauty moments, of which nail lacquer always plays a lead role.

Describe to me what the “beauty junkie” is. How did you come up with a concept for that?

A beauty junkie is someone who lives, breathes, and is addicted to all things beauty. My business partner, Jeanne Chavez, and I watch trends in the beauty industry the way some people follow the stock market. This obsession with beauty has guided me through every step of my career. It’s really a blessing (aka problem).

Do you have any advice for someone looking to start his/her own beauty/cosmetics line, or looking to break into the beauty industry?

Run – fast…. (joking). The process of starting a beauty brand requires the blood, sweat and tears, as does starting any business. Developing and being able to share new products that I love is a privilege that I don’t take lightly. All of the brands I’ve created center on my desire to own/use something that ended up not existing. My advice to anyone would be to listen to your gut and stick to what you really love. Allow your distinct authenticity to come through consistently. Team up with people who have talent, experience and hands on know-how in critical areas that you find you have weakness in – oh yeah, HONESTLY assess your strengths and weaknesses. It’s also important that you feel your team respects your aesthetic and is committed to both executing your vision while also developing a healthy, thriving business.

What are some of your top nail color picks for summer?

Colors I see trending this summer are soft yet rich taupes like The Graduate, coral based hues like Porn-A-Thon and deep, unconventional choices for summertime. Porn-A-Thon, a slightly muted pastel peach, is universally flattering on all sun-kissed skin tones. The ultra-feminine shade conjures visions of eternal summer. The Graduate, an opaque taupe, evokes 1960s glamour and adds both elegance and Mrs. Robinson-inspired heat to everything. Kings & Thieves, an opaque dark ink-blue shade, is an exquisite, unexpectedly dark hue for this time of year.

Besides the lip-gloss, which launches later this year, do you have any other future plans for other cosmetic collections or storefronts?

As we launch Smith & Cult’s lip lacquer line called The Shining and continue to expand the nail lacquer collection, I’m anxious and excited to get back into the lab an work on developing anything and everything beauty. One of my favorite parts of this is the challenge to create generations of innovative formulas. Aside from the formulation development, the branding, art layouts, experience sharing, packaging design, etc. keep me up at night (both literally and figuratively). I love what I do and am endlessly fascinated by all the components of creating a collection – and exhausted.

(Editor’s Note: The lip lacquer will debut on the Smith & Cult website later in June.)

Sum up Smith & Cult in one sentence. 

Smith & Cult is a diary of a beauty junkie, whose experiences embody the conflicting duality between light and dark and their harmonious existence within each of us.

Be sure to check out the Smith and Cult website to purchase these one-of-a-kind nail lacquers, and channel your inner “beauty junkie!”


-by Jackie Hart

Downtown Magazine